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In my defense, I had the name first. Then again, I am Filipino, so of course my parents hooked me up with a million back-up names. Ironically, names are a big part of our culture and on paper I'm technically Ayana Isis Villegas Briones.
I know what you're thinking — given my four names, I must've come up with a solution by now. Feel free to come at me with suggestions. The best idea I've heard is to create my own acronym: AIVB. Too bad it stands for nothing and I'm not a rising rapper who can go around introducing myself with a string of letters. Also, I like my name, and as cliché as it sounds, I don't really care what people think.
Unfortunately, I do get ridiculous reactions whenever I introduce myself. Case in point: I was at a bar enjoying a girls' night, when a guy came up and introduced himself. But, when I reciprocated, he spit out his beer all over my dress when he heard my name. First of all, bro, nobody asked you to talk to me, and for your information I have a boyfriend.
You know how when you date someone, you're also dating their family? Lucky for me, they're handling this whole Isis thing super well. They actually refer to the terrorist group as ISIL (hey, if it's good enough for Obama, right?). When it comes to my own family, they're not bothered by it either. Although my mom and dad always liked Ayana more. (Side note: Growing up I hated that name because it's what my parents would call me when I was in trouble.)
Now, it's as if I'm in trouble with the world. But, it's just a freaking name! The part that stings the most is when people I grew up with, the ones who know me really well, treat me differently. No joke, several of my friends' parents have asked them to avoid saying my name altogether, and a few already changed my display name on their phones. Are you that paranoid that you think your phones are going to get tapped because of a few missed calls and text messages from "Isis"?
Let me take you back to my birthday last year. A couple of my close friends headed to Baskin Robbins for an ice cream cake. Nothing out of the ordinary, until they asked to have "Happy Birthday Isis" written on it. The guy at the counter wasn't having it and replied, "Absolutely not!" My friends explained, had a couple of awkward laughs, and I was eventually surprised with the cake. We did get some side-eyes when my friends gathered around to sing me the birthday song, though.
Once in awhile, it's great to come across people who don't associate me with the terrorist group at all. For instance, I was pleasantly surprised at how many of my co-workers didn't realize why I was writing this article. Since I interact with them on a daily basis, they said my name association is definitely not the first thing that comes to mind. Meanwhile, my personal website isisbriones.com is blocked for security purposes and even celebs I interview are starting to freak out. I guess I get that — a public figure being interviewed by Isis is a bit concerning.
Then I chatted with up-and-coming DJs The Chainsmokers at the recent "Year in Vevo" event. What I thought was going to be an uncomfortable situation ended up turning into laughs I'll never forget. They were about to call me out and say, "Isis is in the house," on stage, but their publicist and I strongly advised against it. It's definitely one of those you-had-to-be-there moments, but unlike my typical interactions, I appreciated that they were just cool about it. Granted, they also do have a great sense of humor. Alex Paul from the duo said he could come up with an entire series and a movie surrounding my name. I'm calling copyright dibs!
But that's the thing — people think I'm going through some type of struggle. Truth is, I'm not. For the over 60,000 supporters who signed the petition to stop the media from using Isis, thank you! Know that either way, we have absolutely no control over the way people treat us. Now speaking to the 8,000 women in the U.S. who are named Isis, don't let anyone make you feel bad about your name. Don't forget, Isis was the Egyptian goddess who protected people in need...and there's nothing more beautiful than that.
This article originally appeared on MIMI; Hello, My Name Is Isis; Isis Briones